published Sunday, December 29th, 2013

Cook: Alex Gallman's last goodbye

Just before he was shot by a stranger furious over a car accident, just before he lay bleeding to death next to his screaming wife, Alex Gallman had walked his kids into school.

Many parents don't. They drive through the drop-off line, giving goodbye hugs and kisses from the front seat to the back. But not Alex.

Maybe it was because coming up with tuition money to Brainerd Baptist School was no easy thing for the Gallmans, so walking his two boys into school was a way to soak it all up. Maybe it let him say thanks to their teachers. Maybe it was just because he loved -- really, really loved -- his kids. After all, he was their basketball coach. He went on classroom field trips, the lone dad among many moms.

So walking Kaleb and Jayden in each morning? Helping them hang their backpacks on the classroom hooks? Giving them a wink or high-five goodbye?

"There wasn't a day you didn't see Alex on campus," said headmaster Sean Corcoran.

Thirteen days ago, he walked his sons into school for the last time. Leaving campus, Alex and his wife, Anna, drove their Honda CR-V -- he used it during the day, she took it to work at night -- down Mayfair Avenue, then turned right onto Moore Road.

According to Corcoran, who's spoken nearly every day with Anna, another car was coming from the opposite direction, turning left onto Moore. Police say it was driven by Richard Manning, 62, who had a gun. The two cars bumped into each other. Alex got out, Corcoran says, not to yell or attack, but to ask Manning to stop yelling and honking his horn.

"He was very soft-spoken and mild-mannered," Corcoran said of Alex. "He got out and said, 'Calm down. You're scaring my wife.' ... The guy shoots him."

Manning has been charged with criminal homicide and aggravated assault.

Alex, a personal trainer, was the main breadwinner. Anna works the dinner shift at Red Lobster. He was 39. There was no life insurance.

"Their concern is just survival at this point," Corcoran said.

Immediately following the shooting, Corcoran put the school on lockdown. Manning had driven off; no one knew where the shooter was. Soon, news trickled in; one photo from the crime scene showed a Honda. Someone whispered that it looked just like the Gallmans'.

A knot began to form inside Corcoran. Then Anna called, hysterical. Corcoran then went to find Kaleb and Jayden and tell them the one thing two boys should never hear.

"The dad that brought these kids to school this morning is not here this afternoon to pick them up," he said.

In their yearbook picture, Kaleb and Jayden look so much like their father; these soft eyes, brown hair, a look that is gentle and easy. It is innocence mixed with thoughtfulness, the look of a boy standing at the edge of a forest he has not yet entered, trying to decide if the creatures within are on his side or against him.

"The day after [the shooting], he shows up to school," Corcoran said of Kaleb. "His teacher is going over their homework, and she skipped him, trying to be sensitive. He raises his hand. 'I've got my homework. Why are you skipping me?'"

This week is Jayden's birthday. He turns 6. Both boys remind Corcoran of Alex.

"They're the kind of students you'd like to have 15 of in one class," Corcoran said.

The Brainerd Baptist School community has met this worst news with their best: teachers spending hours and hours with the kids -- during the school day and at the funeral. Parents have paid funeral costs. Another paid to clean the inside of their car, where Alex bled. Corcoran has waived tuition and brought in multiple counselors. Then, he got a call from a parent.

"She started the trust fund," Corcoran said.

The Gallman Trust Fund was created to help fund any immediate and long-term needs that the Gallman family -- Anna, Kaleb, Jayden and Alex's stepson Gabriel -- may have. Corcoran is encouraging Brainerd Baptist families -- and anyone else -- to donate (any SunTrust bank can accept donations to the Gallman Trust Fund).

"There is definitely a need and they are definitely worthy," he said.

Days after the shooting, I spoke with one of Alex's friends. He was out of town when he heard the news. He checked out of his hotel and drove through the night, from three states away, just so he could be at home when his kids woke up. So he could hug them.

So he could walk them to school.

Just like Alex would have done.

Contact David Cook at or 423-757-6329. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter at DavidCookTFP.

about David Cook...

David Cook is the award-winning city columnist for the Times Free Press, working in the same building where he began his post-college career as a sportswriter for the Chattanooga Free Press. Cook, who graduated from Red Bank High, holds a master's degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College and an English degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For 12 years, he was a teacher at the middle, high school and university ...

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Rickaroo said...

Increasing the number of guns in the public arena will only increase the number of incidents such as this, where innocent people are killed in the heat of the moment or by accident. Certainly there will be times when a gun might save someone's life but we will have far more accidental shootings, road-rage shootings, and heat-of-the-moment arguments ending in gunfire than incidents where a life might be saved form a real villain.

Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be any way of stopping the NRA and the gun crazies from having their way and turning every nook and cranny of America into a gun-carry zone. It seems all too simplistic and obvious to say this, but the answer to our out-of-control gun violence surely cannot be more guns in the hands of more people.

December 29, 2013 at 4:01 p.m.
schizka said...

I sometimes get the sinking feeling that these accidents are just dry runs for something greater and far more sinister. When one takes a just a short trip down American history in the not so distant past you see where all that's shaping up now start to fall into place.

December 29, 2013 at 5:20 p.m.
nucanuck said...

Hand guns are a sign of societal weakness and will, no doubt, continue to increase in number as the US devolves into a lesser country.

December 30, 2013 at 12:05 a.m.
moon4kat said...

This shooting is another example of what happens when people are whipped into such a paranoid frenzy that they rely on guns for every encounter with their fellow man. Gun lobbyists want to make everyone fearful so they will buy more guns and ammo. Then, the ill-trained and paranoid gun owners act on their paranoia and shoot innocent people. The tragedies just keep coming, while the gun lobby does nothing to curb the insanity. They are disgraceful and dishonorable.

December 30, 2013 at 8:23 p.m.
moon4kat said...

Thank you, Mr. Cook, for providing more information about Alex Gallman, the innocent victim.

December 30, 2013 at 8:44 p.m.
Hunter_Bluff said...

How exactly was this angry old white man threatened that he pulled a gun? He was the one honking the horn and yelling. If he hadn't had a gun, no one dies. Imagine him jumping out and trying to whip the Mr. Gallman with his fists. He's not so tough then and he would have gotten a deserved whipping. Now he deserves to sit in prison until he dies.

December 31, 2013 at 1:26 p.m.
twinkie1cat said...

More people with guns being stupid. If the shooter had just hit Gallman with his fists he would still be alive. Because people have guns, they use them. Now two innocent kids are without a good father and another family is ruined because a man got stuck on stupid.

One thing the mother might not know and that will ease the financial burden, is that she can apply for SSI for the kids since their daddy is dead and they can get it through age 21 if they are in school. The father of my neighbor's grandkids was run over by a garbage truck and was able to get it for his children. She saw it as a way to purchase a house and get out of a rough neighborhood. She was a working mom with a low income too.

January 1, 2014 at 12:29 p.m.
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